WHEN PARIS-BASED Sofitel unveiled its first luxury hotel on Chicagoâ€™s Gold Coast in May 2002, it was hailed for its distinctive architecture and uniquely European amenities. Two decades later, Sofitel Chicago continues to set itself apart from its Magnificent Mile neighborsâ€”especially in summertime.
While the quintessentially French hotel is noted for its Cafe des Architectes (now shortened to CDA) restaurant and sultry Le Bar cocktail lounge, the place to be this summer is La Terraceâ€”a swanky patio with flowing curtains that immerses you right in the heart of the Gold Coast action.
We were recently invited to experience La Terrace and the hotelâ€™s recent avant garde renovations. The result was magnifique.
If youâ€™re a fan of the Emily in Paris series on Netflix, you will appreciate the way the Sofitel Chicago marketing team describes its cuisine: â€śDriven by the inherent romance that comes with our storied French heritage, Chef Taus brings to Sofitel Chicago a gastronomic interpretation of modern sensuality.â€ť
That description is so spot on we canâ€™t do better ourselves. Letâ€™s start with La Terrace, which shares its menu with Le Bar (under Executive Chef Cliff Crawford and Chef de Cuisine Daniel HĂ¶fler). When they say it serves â€śoutstanding French contemporary cuisine,â€ť they arenâ€™t kidding. (Never mind the cocktails and mocktails, which are equally Paris-sexy).
Among a robust (and inventive) offering of appetizers are the Foie Gras Mousse (with mulled wine, pine nut streusel, and challah bread); the Smoked Salmon Beignets (with dill crema, pickled red onion, and petit herbs); and Braided Escargot (with parsley and garlic butter, and artisan bread). Mains include the Chicken Paillard (with lemon caper buerre noisette, arugula salad, roasted peppers, and olives); a classic Steak Frites (withÂ house made steak sauce); and Braised Lamb Shank (with brown butternut squash puree, fried sage gremolata, and crispy shallots). For dessert, you canâ€™t go wrong with the macaronsâ€”which are so French and so authentic.
At the CDA, the flavors are more rustic with influences from throughout the Mediterranean. We enjoyed a leisurely brunch there with gorgeous views of La Terrace and the bustle of the city. Menu options range from a Comte and Mushroom Quiche (with pear and frisee salad, fresh herbs, and a walnut vinaigrette) to a Bacon, Brie, and Mushroom Omelette (with crimini, maitqake and honshemiji mushrooms, Nueskeâ€™s applewood smoked bacon, whipped brie and truffle salt, and herb roasted potatoes). There is also the classic New York steak and eggs on the menu, along with yummy brunch cocktails.
While Sofitel Chicago was noted for its chic French style when it opened, all good things must evolve with the times. In addition to the latest offerings at La Terrace, Sofitel Chicago recently unveiled a Paris glam makeover, courtesy of interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon.
With warm Beechwood walls, neutral color palettes, and custom-made furniture, even the hotelâ€™s â€śclassic roomsâ€ť (located on the 6th through 10th floors, featuring floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the bustle on the streets below) are the essence of urban sanctuary.
At the other end of the decadence spectrum is the uber luxurious, five-room Presidential Suite. Located on the 32nd floor, this spectacular â€śpenthouseâ€ť features a bolder color palette, floor-to-ceiling windows, a kingsized feather bed, and HermĂ¨s luxury bath products.
And if you have a beloved pooch, youâ€™ll be pleased to know that Sofitel Chicago is pet-friendly throughout the property.
The Sofitel Chicago lobby is the place where your adventure begins and ends, setting the stage with its rich burgundy fabrics, gorgeous florals, black granite floor, polished African wood, and twin 42-foot mirrors. And if itâ€™s too chilly outside for La Terrace and you want to recreate the vibe of a trendy Paris lounge, the only place to go from there is Le Bar, located just off the lobby (open 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.).
Inspired by the hotelâ€™s iconic architecture, crafted by French architect Jean-Paul Viguier, Le Bar loungeâ€™s design and floor plan features modern lines and bold shapes. Luxurious leather textures and unexpected faux fur throw pillows pair with sleek lines and metal accents for an evening to remember.
In addition to a long list of champagne, sparklers, and wines of all varieties, the cocktail list includes such creative concoctions as To The Moon (Patron Silver, Aperol, grapefruit juice, and lime juice); the Banana Old Fashioned (with aged Bacardi, Giffard Banana, Demerara Syrup, and Angostura Cocoa Bitters) and the Cucumber Cooler (The Botanist Gin, St. Germain, lemon juice, simple syrup, and cucumber wheels). Thereâ€™s even a Seedlip Garden May nonalcoholic offering on the menu with the option for more off-the-menu mocktails.
One more detail of note, particularly for those Emily in Paris fans, is the Sofitel Chicagoâ€™s attention to all five senses, particularly the nose. From the minute you enter, youâ€™ll notice the subtle fragrance of scented candles. Every luxury hotel needs its signature scent, oui?
Sofitel Chicago is located at 20 East Chestnut Street in Chicago, just off the Magnificent Mile. For reservations or a list of summer events (including a gala Bastille Day Party on July 14), call 312-324-4000 or visit sofitel-chicago.com.